Second Stage was the unplanned sequel to a story I had planned to immediately leave after writing. I was perfectly happy with how the first installment ended, everything had wrapped up nicely and I had ended my writing spree on a positive note. However, I was still curious on how to develop the characters even more and the fact that I had opened up a whole galaxy of possibilities. I gave in to the pressure and started writing again. I made sure to take my time writing at least a chapter a day rather than the marathon I exhibited with the first part. So far, I think it all turned out nicely and I managed to keep my sanity for a longer period of time.
I wanted to start this one out with an air of mystery. By not giving away the main character (despite it being pretty obvious, in my opinion) and making the enemy's motives rather unclear, it provided a good introduction to the new setting. From the outset it was clear that this was going to be a bit darker than For Her and I wanted to exemplify that through the violent actions depicted.
This chapter was more of a transitional one, in which I had to describe a few aspects of the Citadel and situate our main characters so that the audience knows where they will stand in the future. It wasn't one of my favorite chapters to write but it did serve its purpose in one regard: I got to introduce Garrus into the mix. Garrus is such a beloved character (a close second in my list of favorite squadmates) and because I had already screwed up the timeline of events, I could do whatever the hell I wanted and threw him into the story. The Shepard-less aspect of the whole For Her saga caused many of the main characters to develop in ways the ME games did not intend. I wanted to try my hand at exploring different facets of their personalities. Garrus is a little more snarky, a little more sardonic in this universe and I think that only makes him cooler (no calibrating to be done here!)
Out of all the chapters I have written, this was my least favorite to write. It served no visible purpose other than to provide a transition for Alec and Garrus while on Tuchanka. I couldn't find an appropriate spot to fit them in considering the risks I was taking with the nonlinear storyline and had to devote a whole chapter to it. It was basic in its design and did not provide much new to the table. However, this was also able to establish the fact that Tali did in fact know of Alec's supposed death and would set up her arc to go in a new direction (even hinting at their relationship). I also introduced the villain in this one, even though I still maintain that writing Silas was not so rewarding as I didn't think he was fleshed out enough or unique to be remembered as a good bad guy. Guess that isn't my strong suit.
This was a fun one to write. I liked describing the party life on the Citadel, as well as providing some opportunities for Garrus to get awkward (silly turian). Tali's dancing came into play again in this story, a nice throwback to the prior one. Took the opportunity to introduce Veetor in the story, despite him being a minor character in the games but I wanted to have a familiar face instead of creating another alternate character. The audience cannot suspend their disbelief indefinitely.
Writing the banter between Garrus and Alec was a lot easier than writing dialogue between Alec and Tali. It helps to reminisce about conversations you have with friends who are characteristically difficult to talk to. Like Wrex would mention later, they fight like a married couple. Also, I would drop a few hints in this chapter regarding the presence of an informant for Silas (wanted to keep people guessing) and one other thing regarding a new development in Tali's life. I didn't blurt the latter out loud because I wanted to slowly introduce the concept without just smacking the audience in the face with it. Therefore, it isn't mentioned until the final chapter, in which everyone has enough time to process the information and will more readily adapt.
Now came a big reveal. It took me a long time to think of a way to introduce the topic of marriage without having to resort to groaner lines or any form of corniness. Not sure what the audience thought of the approach but I tried to make it seem as romantic and realistic as possible. The idea for adding a love scene (or "lemons" as you lot are fond of saying) was considered to be an appropriate way of opening the scene (in which I went back and expanded the scene later on for extra intimacy…no raunchiness!) and resulted in a tender moment between two lovers. I also pretty much glossed over the wedding scene because I wanted to keep the length down so that people wouldn't roll their eyes at its execution. I'm guessing it was fine because people haven't called me out on it yet (heh…heh).
As I said in the last story, battle scenes are always fun to script. Since Tuchanka is home to thresher maws, why not have a fight with one? The pacing needed an action break anyway…too much romantic antics. Also, Wrex! Everyone's favorite krogan made his introduction, albeit in a smaller role but rather important. I also tried (notice I said "tried") to make Silas a little more three-dimensional by adding the bit about Daniel being his father (needless to say, I failed). I don't think that it was the appropriate way to handle the character and should have just cut my losses and wrote him to be a stereotypical bad guy instead of a stereotypical bad guy looking for revenge. I feel as if I've seen that movie before…
This was my longest chapter to date that I've written. It was quite an important one as the geth/quarian conflict had to be described in detail as well as aspects of each respective culture. When playing ME3, I had noticed Legion mention something along the lines of "the Creators attacking so the geth wished to live." That got me thinking: What if the quarians hadn't attacked yet? What if they were about to but stopped when confronted with new knowledge of the geth? There was going to be a major battle scene later on in the story anyway so having another one wasn't really necessary. Using Legion to communicate with both Alec and Tali was the only possible way to accomplish the idea of peace between geth and the quarians because in ME3, Tali never did see what Shepard saw in the consensus. Her being present allowed her to move past her prejudices and determine for herself what the right course of action was.
Fights with a krogan are never pretty. Kept the battle relatively short so that it wouldn't be distracting, but made sure to tack on a violent ending. Also used the chapter to introduce the sweet guns and armor. Always did like the look of that Terminus armor…scary.
Loved the raw emotion in this one. It was interesting to script how the quarians would react upon learning that they could have always gone back to Rannoch whenever they wanted. It seemed so obvious at the time. Utilized the literary device known as Chekov's Gun with the quarian sword and all, made sure to include that for the proper time. Then I just moved on to when the house on Rannoch was built because I wanted to introduce the concept of a family. While planning this out, I knew that I didn't want to go the adoption route as many other FFs have. It just didn't seem all that right to me and I was tired of it being so cliché. I figured that if Bioware can make their own pseudo-scientific answers for elements in their universe, then so can I. I made sure to describe to the audience exactly how a family could be created by the two so that it wouldn't feel forced to them. I tried to make it seem like a realistic alternative to adoption and would tie it in to the hints dropped in prior chapters.
This one was centered on Tali because I didn't think I had focused on her enough in the present timeline. I took advantage of this so that I could script her being a strong character and relatively badass. It's part of her charm and why we all love her.
Finished in under two hours, this one was (no pun intended) a blast to write. I always had the idea of a couple of armored guys just going to town with an army in the way. I pretty much pulled out most of the tricks in the book on how to kill baddies. And omni-swords…why weren't there omni-swords in the games? Seemed like a logical step to me…
Mood Music: Junkie XL's "Fog Battle" from the movie 300: Rise of an Empire
Very satisfying indeed. I love the concept of swordfights in media. They represent the ultimate in duels, one on one, just you and a blade, you and your skill. Naturally, I relished the idea of including a swordfight here so I scripted it to partially reflect the swordfight from the movie Troy in some areas. Silas' over the top death only came to me at the last minute and when I finally remembered the part about cryo ammo, I was like, "Oh my god, that's perfect." One Harvey Dent later combined with an execution from Jason X and you have yourself an extremely satisfying FATALITY. (Oh, yeah. I specifically killed Legion off because I didn't want anyone to feel like they got through this encounter without exhibiting some loss. Legion was cool and all but it made sense to kill him because of the significance he posed to all quarians, particularly Tali).
Mood Music: Danny Elfman's "Main Titles" from the movie Planet of the Apes
Partly one of the reasons why Silas wasn't scripted well as a villain was probably because he wasn't meant to be the only one. After dropping to the audience repeatedly about the presence of an informant, I always wondered what people were coming up with as their own answers to the question. The idea of a quarian as a bad guy was an idea that I had since the beginning of this story's production, but I didn't want to draw it straight out and rather surprise the audience with this information. I used Veetor because there wouldn't be that much fan backlash (if they actually read this story, which is not likely) and because he had just the right amount of twitchiness in his personality for it to be plausible (which led to yet another swordfight).
Closing out this story on Rannoch seemed to be the perfect close in case this series goes stagnant. In this case, the audience has been with the characters enough to feel satisfied with the ending that they have. The pool was added in this scene for extra eroticism (might have been a bit sappy, but it fit the theme of water exposure).
Close out to Clint Mansell's "Rock On!" from the movie Sahara
With that all being said, it was very interesting to write something firmly established in ME's universe, even if it was skewed all to hell. The nonlinear timeline was a pain in the ass to get around so much that I actually had to create liner notes for my reference. At this point, I am currently weighing my options to see if I have enough inspiration to make a third installment, Third Stage. I have a bunch of setpieces that I have outlined, should I write it, but at the moment they are rather disjointed and no clear story has been set in place. I can say that I would plan on it taking place twenty-ish years into the future, introducing more characters and make the story even more darker (even darker than before). Don't count on me starting it anytime soon, but do know that I am considering it because I love these characters so much.